Friday, 24 July 2009


Driving from Esfahan to Shiraz Pedro developed a bit of a misfire. Iranian "Benzine" is only 80 octane and can be pretty poor quality "Super"is better at 90 octane but only available in big cities if you know where to look. I figured Pedro must have picked up some dirty Benzine so pulled into a garage, with a life size david Beckham cardboard cut out in the doorway, in the town of Adabeh.
The guys didn't speak english but as I was pointing to the carburetter indicating that there was dirt inside Ali appeared. Ali explained to them what I was saying and said they would take care of it. They cleaned out the air filter and blew air through the carb which I wasn't convinced was the best way to clean it but ought to clear a blockage and the charge was only 10,000 rials (about 80p).
Ali then insisted that I go back to his house and meet his family. Sure enough I arrived at his house and saw his wife, Roya, peeping around the doorway without her headscarf on, the first time I had seen any iranian lady without a headscarf. Ali had to go back to work but his wife Roya and daughter Neeloofah took me out for the evening to Roya's sister's house.

Here I am in Roya's siters garden with some of the family. Roya is in the orange top and Neeloofah in the blue. Note that I am dressed more conservatively even than Roya's mother(to her left). I was suprised to see that once the headscarves and outdoor coats come off everyone is dressed very casually in jeans and T-shirts. Even granny who arrived in a full chador was dressed just like an English granny might underneath. As for the boys, they played football in the yard and squabbled like children everywhere and like little boys everywhere their hero is David Beckham.

Roya's sister kept a constant supply of Tea and food coming all evening and I learnt a new word "Bocco" meaning eat! By evening I was about ready to burst but it was all lovely. Flat bread with honey, walnuts, cheese, butter, yoghurt, salad etc
The next day I was sorry to say goodbye as I headed on to Persepolis. Unfortunately the fault with the car was still there. He was running at a fairly normal speed but still had the annoying miss-fire which if anything seemed to be getting worse.

The heat at Persepolis was intense. It's hot in the car withno air-conditioning but with a constant supply of water and the breeze through the window it's barable. "Don't you have a hat?" asked a girl in the car park. "No" I said it hadn't actually occured to me to put a hat on top of the headscarf I was already wearing but she was right my face would get burnt without one. "Here" she said, handing me hers, "my gift to you" She showed me the way into the complex and then said goodbye. Most of the women were wearing similar visors on top of their scarves and even over Chadors.

The ancient site of persepolis was incredible, everything that I had expected and more. I've seen statues like these in the British Museum but nothing can compare to actually walking around the site they have stood on for thousands of years.

I had intended to continue to Shiraz but the pakistan border lay in the other direction and with the car playing up I didn't think I could afford the time. I stopped in another garage on the way out of Persepolis and indicated my dirt in the carb theory again. They did the same as the first garage but again the problem persisted.
Some miles up the road with the mis-fire getting worse I stopped in another garage and then I discovered why the mechanic's hadn't actually seemed that competent. A ploiceman stopped to buy some oil and I discovered these roadside places are just simple oil top up or change joints not proper mechanics. The policeman showed me the way to a mechanics where Pedro drew a small crowd. The fault was eventually traced to the condenser but not before half the children in town had Petrolhead Nirvana stickers on their bikes! I suspect a number of the cars got stickered too. The car in the background here is a Paykan 1600 and seems to me exactly the same as an old Ford Cortina.

In Yazd I missed the ring road and got lost in the city trying to find my way onto the road for kerman. Then I saw my first iranian Beetle!! A blue 1303s. I pulled in for a chat with the guys who were as excited as me to see another Beetle. They were fascinated by Pedro's baja style body kit and had lots of questions about who made him that way and where can they buy one. I think they now have plans to come to the Uk or Germany, buy a Baja and drive it home. Sorry for the bad photo, I think it's time I cleaned the windscreen and it was really too dangerous to get out and take photos in the traffic!
I spent the night in Kerman intending to continue to the border town of Zahedan the next day but Pedro had other ideas. We only made it as far as Bam when his throttle cable snapped. I coasted to a stop at the roadside and was attempting to fix it with some gaffer tape which to be honest was never going to work when first a van and then a car stopped. the van driver gave me some cold water while the well dressed man in the car made a phone call and spoke into his walkie talkie. A police nissan Patrol arrived, the policeman saluted the man in the suit (i found out later he was the head of all the police in the area). They towed me to Akbar's guest house and along with another police car went to find a mechanic. the problem being that it's friday and friday is the day of rest here, nobody works.
Well as I've been writing this the chief of police, Akbar's son and 2 different mechanics have been calling around and just now I heard the engine fire up! They found a cable from another car and he's fixed!
So tomorrow I'm heading to pakistan and the chief of police has arranged for a plain clothes policeman in a plain car to follow me to the border, apparently there has been a little trouble in this area. A couple of tourists were kidnapped by drug smugglers who then demanded the authorities release one of them who was in prison. The tourists were treated very well and were released a few days later but it would still be nice to avoid the experience so I'll take the offered escort.
I missed a bit at the start of this post as I'm having trouble uploading my photos from my other memory card of Mount Ararat and the Mongolian Rally guys I met at the border so will try and add that later. right now I need food, a shower and sleep in that order.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Kosovo to turkey

Rica was keen to visit Bill Clinton so we had to say goodbye to the MAT guys and head on our way. This may come as a suprise to some people but Pristina in Kosovo is the home of Bill Clinton.
Unfortunately Pedro didn't appreciate the heavy rain and miles of muddy road to get to Pristina. Their were major road works going on and Pedro chose the busiest, muddiest section to cut out. No amount of tinkering, which for me amounted to spraying lots of WD40 around the by now soaking engine, was working. Pedro attracts a lot of attention though and before long a polish doctor stopped and offered us a tow to a garage. He spoke excellent English so translated the problem to the garage before heading on his way.
So. stood at the side of the road, in the mud and rain and who should appear but Artur from MAT with his wife Nicky, children, Lisa and Jan and also his niece who is called Fiona! They had been shopping in Pristina and were on their way home when they recognised the old Beetle in the garage!
The fault was eventually traced to a small part of the carb which sends a sugnal to the throttle so that it doesn't cut out when you take your foot off the accelerator. I'm sure someone can tell me what it's called, we didn't know the translation from kosovan. Luckily, the garage owner, who was wearing a splendid pork pie hat, found one the same on an old russian carb in his workshop.
So, we said goodbye to Artur and his family again and were on our way again. It was still raining and very dark when we drove up Bill Clinton avenue in Pristina but Rica got her photo!
A lot of effort to have your photo taken with a former president but I understand the fascination. Most Americans would struggle to find kosovo on a map and yet here is a country who proudly fly the American flag, have named the main street of their capital city after an American president and display a 4 metre tall picture of him in the centre of town. All out of gratitude for the help offered by America during the war with Serbia. Most of the mines and cluster bombs being cleared by MAT are american but they don't feel any bitterness about that because it was neccessary to end the war with Serbia. Britain also helped during the conflict, so the British and American's are very warmly welcomed in Kosovo.
Of course this put us well behind schedule again so we had to high tail it through Macedonia and greece. On entering Macedonia Rica managed to convince customs that they were part of Europe so we didn't have to buy car insurance, well 50 euros for 3 hours in the country did seem a bit steep! It did cause a small problem when leaving the country but the officials eventually decided we weren't worth the paperwork and let us go.
Greece went by in a bit of a flash of mostly night driving but at the border we met a group of Polish 4x4 drivers. They were on a tour from Poland to turkey and back in a fleet of landrovers - Light weights! Of course they loved Pedro and we found ourselves posing for probably the millionth photo of this trip! There must be pictures of Pedro all over the internet by now!
We arrived in Istanbul later that night, where Rica had arranged to stay at a couch surfing flat. For those unfamiliar with couch surfing, it's a website where people advertise floor space, a spare bed or sofa in their house free to international visitors. well these guys had obviously been doing it for a while because they had a flat full. Apart from rica and I there were 2 Australians, a Slovenian girl and 2 chezch girls were just leaving. It turned into a bit of a couch surfing party with different flavour Shisha being smoked.
To get back on schedule I had to leave early the next morning for the drive to cappodocia. Rica's Iranian visa didn't arrive in time so she is flying to meet me in pakistan. I arrived in Cappodocia very late, Pedro was running very slowly, especially up hills. As the staff in the hotel here speak perfect English I asked them to direct me to a mechanic.
Mustafah didn't speak any English but unlike a lot of men that I've met since arriving in Turkey was very kind and respectful. He understood the problem and set about stripping down the carb. It seems I'd picked up a bit of dirty fuel. The air filter was also filter so that received a petrol bath and a blow out with the air line. He didn't like the way the carb moved around so made a little bracket to secure it. He was also concerned about a crack in one of Pedro's fibreglass wings. I didn't have any way to tell him it's been like that since I bought him so I let him rivet a plate underneath, I think the idea is that it will stop it getting worse and add a little strength.

The guys in the garage were all very sweet and even shared their luch with me. It really changed my attitude to Turkish men who I was starting to think were all just out to chat up western women and Pedro is now running great again.

Unfortunatley after the garage I stopped at some market stalls where I was instantly harrassed and some bloke stuck black eye-liner on me! I didn't want it but thought I'd end up with it stuck in my eye if I moved!
So, with rica still in Istanbul I set out to expore Cappodocia with our other passenger. If you've read my earlier post then you'll know that James beauchamp has sent his best friend `white teddy` travelling with us. Here he is enjoying the cave homes in Goreme national park.

I'm videoing this journey too but it's a little difficult while I'm on my to film and talk to camera at the same time. I set the camera up in one of the caves to record myself, the 2 new yorkers who walked in didn't see the camera and thought I was a crazy person talking to myself.

The camel doesn't look too convinced so I didn't bother!!

Got to run now, on the hotel computer and other guests are waiting to use it, hence the hurried post - apologies for any typos!

Friday, 10 July 2009

Mines Awareness Trust, Peja (Pec), Kosovo

When we crossed the border into Kosovo the MAT landcruiser was waiting for us along with Danny, Artur and the trusts founder Ben. Danny and Ben were just over from the UK for a few days and hadn't received the e-mail about our jourey so we were really lucky to meet them.

It's a steep drive down from the mountains to Peja in the valley below. Poor Pedro's brakes were smoking so we stopped for a little rest part way to say hello to our hosts. MAT have an office in Peja with a couple of rooms for visiting staff from the UK. Ben and Danny very kindly gave there rooms up for us and called Zippy to send some gorgeous local food up from his fathers restaurant......including cows brains!

This morning we said our goodbyes to Ben and Danny who had to fly back to the UK. Artur first took us into town where we left Pedro for a check up at the local garage. Everybody loves Pedro, he gets so much attention! There are VW vans everywhere here but very few Beetles and I don't think anyone has ever seen a Baja. they find him fascinating, especially the big tyres which several people have asked to buy!

So leaving Pedro with the mechanic we jumped into the Landcruiser and headed up into the mountains to visit two MAT project sites. At the first site we met the team of de-miners and their specially trained detection dogs. The handlers were kind enough to demonstrate how the dogs work in a team of two to search out explosives.

Then they had a special surprise for me! This morning the team discovered two grenades and a mortar. These had been wired up for a controlled explosion and Artur offered me the chance to press the button! Flora, the famous lady de-miner who has been featured in Vogue, helped Rica and I on with flack Jackets and helmets. We were shown where to stand and where to set the video camera up to catch the explosion. So, hiding behind a tree in my flack jacket Artur began the countdown, at "three" I held my finger on the charge button, then at "zero" pressed the detonator. The sound echoed around the surrounding hillsides. It felt good to remove those three devices from exixtence. We passed children playing in the mountains, they are aware of the threat of mines but what can they do, they still need to live their lives. It's good to know that at least three of these potentially lethal explosives can no longer harm anyone. All I did was press the button though, the mine team were very careful to ensure our safety at the site. They are the ones who risk their lives everyday to continue this work.
The afternoon was a much sader occasion as we visited a second site where clearance work has ceased. The whole area is littered with cluster bombs. Cluster bombs scatter over a very wide area so it is very time consuming to survey the whole area and remove the threat. Some bombs lie as close as 200 feet from family homes. The Mines Awareness Trust desperately need more funding so they can continue where they left off clearing this site. Their team is currently only 10 de-miners and without extra funding it will take many years to clear these areas. As the years go by the mines and unexploded weapons of war become harder to detact as they become covered in layers of leaf mulch.

If you would like to support MAT you can do so by sponsoring us at:


Finally back on schedule! We spent the night in Podgorica.

Next morning we headed on towards Kosovo through the stunning mountains of Montenegro. Everytime we stopped to take photos other people would stop and take photos of us!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Goodwood and the Crazy Canucks

Wow, hasn't been much time for blogging! I am tweeting though so keep an eye on the twitter feed on the left.

We left fromGoodwood on 4th July. Met Jay Kay there, he wouldn't wish us luck on camera :-( but he was very polite about, contrary to his reputation with photographers.

Thanks to everybody who turned out to see us off and Happy Birthday to my niece Penny.

Our first problems came at the Channel tunnel. We lined up to drive on to the train right by the Italian "Riders for Hope" team who are heading to Tajikistan on the Roof of the World Rally. We were hoping to have time for a chat but then disaster struck...Pedro wouldn't start!

The Channel Tunnel recovery guys were very sweet and tracked it down to a dodgy starter motor. Whacking it with a hammer got it going but we would have to find a new one as that trick wasn't going to keep us going all the way to Australia. Luckily for us the "European Bug in" was on in Belgium the weekend we left so guess where we were heading! If there was any chance of finding a new starter and some help with the bug it would be there.

We had a nightmare finding our way into Chimay. Open petrol stations were impossible to find and without a fuel guage in the car it was inevitable we were going to run out. We emptied one Jerry can into the car but it cut out a little further down the road, probably down to air in the system where we got so low on fuel. While we were trying to get the car started a lovely Belgian couple stopped to help us and escorted us into Chimay. In Chimay the car died again. Rica went off with one of the Belgian guys to find petrol and came back with some french guys in Beetles. They helped us get the car going, syphoned a little fuel from one of their cars, showed us the way to their campsite and when we got their put a much needed beer in our hands.

Next morning we headed for the Bug In. The European Bug In is a big VW meet and drag race event. I was looking for a friend of a friend that I knew was there to ask for help, instead we found the Crazy Canuck Drag Racing Team, a Canadian/British team who offered to help us. The whole team spent all day getting Pedro running perfectly. I tracked down a new starter motor at the show which Sarah (aka Beaver) fitted, Shane(the canadian element of the team) removed the electronic ignition system which he said was part of our problem and switched it back to point and condenser. Even Ginger Bob picked up a spanner and tightened the battery terminals, apparently Ginger Bob holding a spanner is a rare event so we were very honoured. As it was Shanes birthday we were then obliged to spend the evening out in Chimay drinking any strange spirits that could be found. The Zi Zi Coin Coin went down very well, although I think my personal favourite was the meths coloured Pisang Ambon which was allegedly guarana and lime flavour. Will have to add the crazy canuck photos later as they're on Ricas camera.

Trying to put our tents up in the dark after a heavy night was interesting. Right next to the Porta loos. Nice!
Next morning the guys did some last minute fettling and branded Pedro with a Crazy Canuck team sticker and we were on our way with some serious catching up to do.

The rest of Europe has been a bit of a blur and I'm pretty exhausted right now. We put in a lot of motorway hours driving, still saw some stunning scenery in the Austrain Alps especially.

Then it was on to Slovenia and Croatia. Finally pausing for a little sight-seeing in Dubrovnik.

We have an extra passenger onboard Pedro, James Beauchamps friend "white teddy". He is very happy James and enjoyed his first sight-seeing tour in Dubrovnik.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Latest photos of pedro the Baja. Next to the British Ayres Rock, part of the Cricket AM set at Sky TV and on display at supercar Sunday at gaydon.
We leave on friday so very busy with last minute preparations!!